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Goofy vs. queues: how Disney wins with CX reward

Emily CleaverInsight Editor28 Nov 2022

When you visit a Disney theme park, you queue. Everyone knows that.

And queuing is bad. No one likes to queue. Customers complain about queuing. It’s the kind of negative that gets noted on customer surveys. Companies spend money on reducing queues. Managers have retail KPIs based on time to get served.

Queuing is a major CX friction at Disneyland, and not the only one. Visiting is expensive, the accommodation and food are of mixed quality, there’s a lot of walking.

And yet, customer behaviour doesn't seem to tally with this friction-filled customer experience. Many people go back to Disney year after year after year. Quarterly revenue for Disney theme parks was up $3 billion this year compared to last year.

Why don’t CX frictions like long queues seem to matter to Disney's loyal customers?

Why doesn’t friction matter to Disney?

If you ask customers what they thought of their Disney experience, they might well mention the queues. But customer feedback doesn’t necessarily correlate with customer behaviour and the future choices customers make, like booking a Disney resort again next year.

What really matters to loyal customers of Disney is not the length of time they spend queuing, but that every fan gets their five minutes hugging Goofy. The CX reward Disney offers is that moment they will always remember.


Disney does CX reward brilliantly. They understand what motivates their customers, what they are really paying for – good memories – and it delivers. Make sure every kid can get a picture with Elsa or Woody, and the queues don’t matter. Put on a magical fireworks displays at the end of the day and people will go away remembering that instead of the queues. (This tactic exploits the peak-end bias in cognitive psychology – intense emotion at the end of an experience disproportionately impacts our memory of it.)

When customers walk away from Disneyland, they remember Goofy, and they remember the fireworks. The hour and a half in the queue for Space Mountain has not been forgotten, but its importance has been outweighed by all that juicy reward.

Disney ramps up the CX reward, and despite the friction, the result is returning customers. Any other customer-facing business can learn from Disney about the importance of enhancing customer service experiences to make customers come back again and again.

Photo by Anthony Quintano

Friction – not always bad?

Should Disney invest more in queue management technology, or is money be better spent training and paying more actors to deliver life-affirming connections to Disney stories? Which investment will make Disney more relatively attractive to customers compared to other theme parks or holiday packages?

This kind of question could apply to any retailer. Do I invest in making it easier to buy by reducing shopping friction, or do I invest in increasing purchase reward? Do I spend on reducing queues, or on increasing the quality of staff advice? Do I spend on increasing delivery speed, or the unboxing experience? Which area of CX investment will make me more relatively attractive than my rivals?

Uncrowd’s methodology quantifies shopping effort versus purchase gain, friction versus reward. But that’s not the real magic.

Crucially, our platform overlays those measurements with specific customer stories so that you can see which frictions and which rewards matter to customers, so that you have the data to make strategic investments, making sure you put more kids in front of Goofy (metaphorically speaking) instead of wasting it on queues that will dissolve in a customer’s mind as they enjoy the fireworks.

Uncrowd is on a mission to improve every customer experience on the planet through a unique combination of CX observation, quantitive measurement and comparative results. Our data is objective, empirical, and always shows your next best action.

Photos by Richard Giles and Anthony Quintano